Academia and business toward one vision

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Scientific research has always been one of the primary and most valuable contributors to the development of science, economics and human life in general. In Saudi Arabia, scientific research plays an important role with regard to the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, which seeks to shape the future of the country and transform it into a knowledge-based economy.

In the Kingdom, scientific research relies primarily on government support. Meanwhile, there is an unexploited opportunity and gap between industry and academia. This is not the same as the gap between what a student learns as part of academic study and what work constitutes in reality; instead, this is the gap existing between the needs of academic research and those of industry research.

This article aims to draw attention to the challenges and opportunities involved in bridging the gap between academia and industry with regard to research. This gap is caused by a number of factors. Some of them are in the field of academia. Universities, for example, may not find industry problems significant enough to address. Industries, on the other hand, may not feel that academic research is particularly helpful to their mission.

Some of the challenges find their source in both domains. For instance, the disparity between universities and businesses with regard to what is expected from each party, besides the uncertainty pertaining to the intellectual property of the research that could result in an invention or a startup.

These challenges should be addressed, but this contemplation must not bring the collaboration between universities and businesses to an end, because the opportunities in such collaboration provide more advantages than drawbacks.

This kind of collaboration will lead to conducting research related to the needs of industry. It will maximize the value of research from a business perspective. It will also accelerate the pace of scientific discovery, as it will give experts the opportunity to work on valuable research and train students, who will then lead change in the future with regard to real-life business situations.

These collaborations will also contribute to resolving one of the main challenges that researchers around the world face: finding a funding source, which is considered a top priority by leading universities.

A 2013 report by the Ministry of Education (formerly known as the Saudi Ministry of Higher Education) on the state of expenditure for scientific research and development in Saudi Arabia showed that government spending on scientific research increased from SR15.2 billion in 2012 to SR16.6 billion, while non-government expenditure on scientific research decreased from SR9.02 billion to SR7.8 billion.

The relationship between research funding and scientific progress is that of a direct proportion. That is, as one increases, the other also increases.

In an era of emerging technologies, products and services, the importance of research and development in business has intensified, as research helps predict future technology trends and accelerates the growth of a company, helping it gain an advantage over its competitors.

Statista listed the companies with the highest expenditure on R&D in 2017, as follows: Amazon spent around SR60.3 billion, Alphabet spent SR52.1 billion, Intel Co. and Samsung spent SR47.6 billion, and Apple spent SR37.5 billion on research and development. This is billions of riyals yearly. This clearly indicates that the importance of research is not restricted to academia, but also plays an important role in industry.

Some countries have realized the importance of such collaborations. The UK government, for instance, encourages and facilitates businesses in the UK to improve their competitiveness and productivity through Knowledge Transfer Partnership. It helps establish contact between businesses and academic or research organizations and graduate students.

In conclusion, inventions and discoveries that are the result of continuous research efforts drive the world’s advancement. Bridging the gap between academia and industry is not a luxury but a necessity. Universities and businesses are encouraged to sit at one table and discuss common interests, potential opportunities and challenges; they then invite innovators to find solutions to these challenges and work together in experimentation without the fear of failure and with a common vision in mind.

Mashael Abdulalim AlZaid,

Riyadh

(Mashael is an innovation enthusiast who studied computer science. She believes in youth and is eager to participate in the development of her country.)


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